Servile Spirits Tribe? The hell are they? What does their tribe have to do with the information I want?
Is the king’s intelligence team only capable of obtaining this kind of useless information?
Wait…Servile spirits take it upon themselves to find physical spirits and become their servants… They serve physical spirits?
Gong Hua, don’t tell me there’s a shorty by your side?
Ha! That’ll make you much easier to find.
Under the surveillance of two guards, the Leaf that was being auctioned off walked onto the stage. She was not bound by fetters and was wearing a clean white dress, appearing very pure and beautiful.
Although her features were beautiful, she was extremely thin. Even when using Leaves as the standard, she was still extremely thin. Her expression wasn’t unpleasant enough to say she was miserable, but she certainly didn’t appear happy. Compared to the blank-faced Leaves locked up in the prison, she appeared much more worried.
After seeing the Leaf that was being auctioned off, Yin Qie Zi suddenly felt that it might be good to take her away from this place. He couldn’t do anything to make her happy, but he could at least make sure she had enough to eat so that she wouldn’t look like she was going to fall over at any moment.
“That’s a female right?”
Owen turned around and asked excitedly. Yin Qie Zi glared at him. The Leaf was clearly wearing a dress, anyone with eyes could tell she was female. Was there even a need to ask?
“Could you give that Leaf to me?”
Yin Qie Zi paused in surprise, and then realized that it had been Jin Qi Er who had spoken. Jin Qi Er had on a frightened and uneasy expression. As a tall and mighty Danya, it was rather funny to see that sort of expression appear on his face.
“How can you go back on your promise like this? Are you Danyas really this mistrustful of others?” Owen growled out furiously.
“Owen!” Edward immediately sternly reprimanded his friend.
“It’s all right!” Jin Qi Er explained quickly, “It’s not that I don’t trust you. I only want to exchange one of the Leaves from the peace offerings for this one. You can personally choose a Leaf from the ten we’ve received! How about this, I’ll even pay the bid for that Leaf!” After he finished speaking, Jin Qi Er immediately turned to his subordinates and ordered them to bid on the Leaf.
Everyone was stunned by Jin Qi Er’s request. Unless Yin Qie Zi insisted on taking the Leaf that was being auctioned off, Jin Qi Er’s offer wasn’t the least bit advantageous or detrimental to him. Because of this, Yin Qie Zi simply didn’t understand why Jin Qi Er would make this sort of offer.
“Are you personally acquainted with that Leaf onstage?” Yin Qie Zi was somewhat surprised. He originally thought Jin Qi Er had come to the auction because he simply wanted to buy another Leaf and that he wasn’t looking for a specific one.
“No, I don’t know her,” Jin Qi Er replied awkwardly. “It’s only because she has blue hair.”
Blue hair? Yin Qie Zi stared blankly at Jin Qi Er for a moment, but then he had a sudden epiphany. He abruptly remembered the Leaf called Aquamarine. Did Jin Qi Er perhaps want to bring this Leaf back and gift her to Indigo?
If that was the case… Yin Qie Zi looked at the Leaf onstage. Her head was lowered and not much expression could be seen on her face. Her slightly hollow cheeks added a weathered look to her appearance.
Instead of letting her stay at his side, wouldn’t it be better to send her to Indigo? If it were Indigo, he would treat her well. Yin Qie Zi turned around and told Jin Qi Er, “Promise me you’ll take good care of her on the way back to Danya.”
Jin Qi Er paused, but then quickly replied, “Of course!”
Yin Qie Zi nodded in response, but then realized he should have asked for Owen and Mila’s opinions before agreeing. He quickly asked the two, “This should be fine, right?”
Owen scratched his face. He wasn’t opposed to Jin Qi Er’s offer. It was even better now that he didn’t have to pay for a Leaf.
Mila also didn’t have any objections. The only reason she and Owen wanted to buy a Leaf was because they wanted to gift it to Yin Qie Zi, a Flower, and prevent him from saving the Leaves who were acting as peace offerings. They didn’t mind if the Leaf wasn’t bought from the auction as long as they could give it to Yin Qie Zi.
“Then why don’t we leave first? I have to go back and prepare the materials I need to make the medicine. It’ll be a rather tight schedule to have it all ready in two weeks.”
Yin Qie Zi stood up after speaking. It was certainly inappropriate for him to leave before the prince and foreign emissaries, but Jin Qi Er immediately stood up at his words and spoke as if asking Yin Qie Zi a big favor. “Then I’ll be troubling you with this.”
“You can send the special spirits I need to the Warlord’s estate. I am living there at the moment. It’d be best if I could have them by tonight.” Yin Qie Zi didn’t hold back and bluntly ordered.
“No problem!” Jin Qi Er nodded in agreement. He then remembered that he was going to gift a Leaf to Yin Qie Zi and asked quickly, “When will you come to select a Leaf?”
“You can pick one and deliver it to me.”
Finished speaking, Yin Qie Zi walked up and grabbed the handles of Mila’s wheelchair. He pushed her out of the box, Fenny naturally following after them. Owen remained behind to keep Prince Edward company.
The hallway was especially quiet; they came across virtually no one. Most of the attendees were still in the great hall or private boxes participating in the bidding of various merchandises. They occasionally passed by a few attendants in the hallway, whose hands were laden down with plates of food, catalogs, and other things as they rushed about.
As she was sitting in her wheelchair, Mila was unable to see Yin Qie Zi’s expression, but she didn’t try to turn around. She simply asked, “What’s wrong?”
“…I don’t want to see her.”
“You mean the Leaf that is being auctioned off?”
Yin Qie Zi was quiet for a moment, but nodded in the end. “Yes.”
In a consulting voice, Mila asked, “Then when Jin Qi Er brings over the Leaf he’s promised you, should we let the servants take care of it first? You don’t have to rush to see the Leaf, is that alright?”
Yin Qie Zi paused in surprise. He never realized he could do things this way.
Mila smiled and said, “Don’t worry. I’ll make sure the servants take good care of the Leaf and turn it white and chubby!”
Yin Qie Zi smiled faintly. “Thank you.”
“Then why don’t we go home―”
Fenny suddenly walked up and interrupted. “The weather is so nice tonight. Wouldn’t it be a shame to go home so early? In any case, if we leave first, the carriage will have to come back and take the young master home. That would simply be too much trouble. Why don’t we go for a walk first and wait for Young Master Owen? I know the perfect place for stargazing and it’s nearby―”
“Fenny! That’s enough. Yin Qie Zi has to go back and prepare the materials he needs to make the medicine.” This time it was Mila who cut in, looking angry and humiliated.
Unexpectedly, Yin Qie Zi said, “That was only an excuse. Spending an hour or two out here wouldn’t hurt. Let’s go.”
The other two were surprised at his answer. Not to mention Mila, even Fenny who had suggested the idea never thought he would agree.
“What’s wrong?” Yin Qie Zi felt their reactions were strange.
“It’s only that…” Mila was hesitant and spoke haltingly, “I didn’t think you would agree. I thought you would prefer to go back home first and research spirit medicines or something. Owen did say you dislike going outside…”
Yin Qie Zi paused in surprise, but then said unhappily, “Owen probably told you a bunch of things, but forgot to tell you about other things. It’s true that I didn’t go out much this year. But I was a traveler before I came to Qi Feng and had settled down here for only a year. The way Owen describes it makes it seem like I never went out the door my entire life.”
Mila was taken aback and asked curiously, “Owen did say you were a traveler before you came to Qi Feng, but he never mentioned that you had been traveling the whole time before coming to this city. Since when did you start traveling around?”
Yin Qie Zi smiled at Mila’s question, but instead of responding, he asked Fenny for directions and slowly pushed Mila’s wheelchair towards the stargazing site.
He explained as he walked, “I first started traveling with my teacher ten years ago, and only started traveling by myself these recent years. Well… I can’t really say I’m by myself as my servant Litelli is with me.”
What he had told Mila was only half-true. The only part he’d left out of his explanation was that his teacher was in fact Litelli. At that time, Litelli went by the name Lequilier and was a famous spirit binder. To avoid running into unwanted trouble, Yin Qie Zi had changed the other’s name to Litelli.
He had definitely learned the craft of spirit binding from Litelli, so it wasn’t inaccurate to call Litelli his teacher. Only, this teacher of his secretly held the concurrent job of being his servant.
“You started traveling when you were only ten years old?” Mila was surprised by his explanation. “That young? Traveling around must have been difficult for you?”
Yin Qie Zi smiled and said quietly, “Did you forget who I am? My appearance was the same ten years ago. I wasn’t a ten-year-old child.”
Mila was shocked at his answer, but then remembered Yin Qie Zi wasn’t the twenty-year-old young man he proclaimed to be. His true age had to be over fifty years old. The things he had gone through in his life were things normal people would never experience. The entire Leaf Tribe had moved to a different continent, leaving him behind, alone…
“It definitely was a difficult path, getting to where I am now,” Yin Qie Zi replied simply.
Upon hearing Yin Qie Zi’s response, Mila felt an ache inside her heart. Yin Qie Zi’s words hadn’t been sorrowful and his voice had been rather indifferent, but it was because of this indifference that he gave off the feeling that he had already experienced all the trials life had to offer.
“It must have been difficult.” Mila didn’t know how to comfort the other. Yin Qie Zi had been abandoned by his entire tribe… How would she go about comforting him?
Yin Qie Zi didn’t respond. His entire path, how could it simply be described as “difficult?”
At that moment, Fenny spoke up quietly, “Miss, we’re here.”
Yin Qie Zi and Mila raised their heads to look at the sky and exclaimed in awe unanimously. They were at the end of the sidewalk, in a rather remote area that was sparsely lit. Not a single soul could be seen around them. But because of that, the stars that covered the sky above shined particularly bright, appearing especially enchanting to the eyes.
Yin Qie Zi wasn’t a stranger to star-filled skies like these; he had seen night skies that were even more beautiful. When he was still going by the name Gong Hua, he had sat under the Spirit Tree for many years with nothing to do. As a result, he would look up and gaze at the night sky to pass the time. The forest was much darker than the cities. There weren’t any artificial lights that smothered the splendor of the stars, so the sky naturally appeared more beautiful.
In reality, however, Yin Qie Zi didn’t pay any attention to the stars back then. What he truly looked at and appreciated was the night itself; it was the only thing that was similar in color to him. He even found the stars irritating to look at. They simply shined too bright and discolored the pure black of the night sky.
“Every time I look at the stars, I am reminded of how small I am in comparison!” Mila exclaimed admiringly.
Yin Qie Zi looked down at Mila. She had her head raised and was gazing at the sky, her green eyes reflecting the twinkles of thousands of stars. She seemed even more beautiful than usual. Her beauty did not lose even when compared to that of the Leaf that had being auctioned off. She only appeared livelier in comparison. But because of this, the people around her felt it was a pity that she was disabled.
However, Yin Qie Zi did not think Mila was pitiful. She might have trouble walking, but what did that matter? She had a bright, beautiful smile, a pair of glittering green eyes like a lake’s surface, and even the sunflower-colored hair that he liked the most…
He looked down at Mila’s golden hair, but then noticed the hairclip she was wearing. It was the black hairclip he had given her.
Normally, it would be quite jarring to see a black hairclip in golden hair, but Mila had cleverly twisted a part of her hair into a bun and tied it with a black lace ribbon that made the black hairclip less jarring. But as the hairclip was hidden by the ribbon, it was rather hard to notice. Yin Qie Zi hadn’t noticed Mila was wearing his hairclip until now because of this… Of course, the fact that he was heedless of outer appearances and rather slow to notice changes were probably a few of the reasons he hadn’t noticed until now.
“Black doesn’t suit you. Why don’t you return that hairclip to me? I’ll buy a different one for you.”
Mila blinked and then flatly rejected him. “No! This hairclip is mine! Who would take back a present like this?”
Yin Qie Zi stared at Mila in surprise; he never thought she would refuse. Ever since he first met her, Mila had never out-right refused anything.
“Yin Qie Zi, why are you so attached to black?”
When he heard Mila’s question, Yin Qie Zi blurted out the answer automatically. “Because my―” hair color was originally black. He quickly clamped his mouth shut upon realizing what he was going to say, managing to avoid revealing his secret.
He quickly stole a glance at Fenny out the corner of his eyes and noticed that she had deliberately hid herself in the shadows some seven or eight steps away. Despite this, Yin Qie Zi was sure she could see the two of them clear as day.
Fenny was Yehv’s wife. Not only had Yehv participated in the war, he was also West’s subordinate. Could he afford to take this risk right now? Wait! Yin Qie Zi paused in shock, what risk had he just been thinking about? H-had he actually wanted to let Mila see his true hair color?
Mila gazed up at him and asked somewhat disappointedly, “You can’t tell me?”
Upon seeing Mila’s disappointed look, Yin Qie Zi didn’t know what came over him, but he bent down towards her ear and said without thinking, “Actually, my real hair color isn’t silvery-purple… Don’t tell anyone else! Including Owen!”
Mila sat stunned when she heard Yin Qie Zi’s answer. She then quickly figured out what his true hair color was and understood why he had been so adamant about how the black hairclip was not a defective product.
The Leaf Tribe was a brightly-colored tribe. Black probably wasn’t a color the tribe liked or preferred.
Mila quietly made a sound of agreement. She felt a bit sorry for Yin Qie Zi, but she also felt a glimmer of happiness as he had been willing to confide a secret that nobody else knew to her.
“Let’s go. I think Owen is about finished chatting with the prince. If he still hasn’t come out, we should just leave first without waiting any longer for him. He can walk home by himself!”
Mila chuckled and replied, “Haha. He’ll be lost without Yehv to guide him.”
“Even if he is an idiot, he should at least know how to ask for directions, right?”
“Pfft. You might be right.”
Yin Qie Zi pushed Mila’s wheelchair back to the auction house at a slow pace, occasionally exchanging a few words with her. Their conversations were mostly spirit binder related, and they soon started discussing the medicine Jin Qi Er had ordered. Fenny, who was walking behind them, rolled her eyes in exasperation at their conversation and grumbled to herself about how the two of them were not the least bit romantic. She didn’t curse at Mila’s unromantic behavior as much, after all it was all that Yin Qie Zi’s fault anyways. Even when compared to the forty-year-old Yehv, Yin Qie Zi’s lack of romanticism was about a hundred times worse! Fenny sighed to herself. But if speaking of his true age, wouldn’t Yin Qie Zi be much older than Yehv?
When the three of them arrived at the door of the auction house, quite a number of people were already walking out and leaving one after another on their carriages. It seemed the auction was about to end. Fenny asked their coachman and confirmed that Owen still hadn’t come out yet. She walked back to Mila and Yin Qie Zi and discussed the matter with them. They decided to wait for a little longer in the end so the coachman wouldn’t have to come back and pick up Owen… Thinking about it, Owen would never ask for directions and walk home by himself.
“Isn’t this Miss Mila?” Five young nobles approached the three of them. Mila had been conversing with Yin Qie Zi and her smile froze when she heard her name mentioned. She turned around to face the group of nobles and lifted her lips in another smile, but it was only a superficial smile done out of courtesy.
“Long time no see.”
While Mila chatted politely with the young noble who had spoken, Yin Qie Zi glanced over the rest of the group. What he first noticed were their clothes; this group of nobles were all dressed in gorgeous outfits that were no less extravagant than his. It seemed like Owen hadn’t lied to him; he truly wasn’t the only one who had dressed extravagantly for the auction.
Yin Qie Zi, however, wasn’t the least bit happy at this discovery. The group of nobles before him looked like a frivolous bunch, though not all of them were the frivolous type. But the atmosphere they exuded as a group marked them as people Yin Qie Zi would avoid with a wide berth on a normal day. It really wasn’t a joyful thing for him to discover that he was dressed the same way as the people he avoided like the plague.
Mila also didn’t seem especially happy to have come across this group of nobles. Although she had a smile on her face, Yin Qie Zi could tell that it wasn’t a true happy smile. Mila’s smile should be brighter than this. If she was truly happy, her eyes would turn up slightly. Even if her lips did not turn up, he should be able to see a clear smile in her green eyes.
“And who is this gentleman beside you?” One of the nobles opened his mouth and asked.
Yin Qie Zi glanced indifferently at him. Although the noble who had spoken was one of the less annoying ones in the group, it didn’t mean Yin Qie Zi would smile at him.
“Gawain, this is Yin Qie Zi. Yin Qie Zi, this is Gawain. He’s a friend of Owen’s from the military.”
For the sake of being polite, Mila should have introduced the rest of the nobles as well, but she decided to skip their introductions. Firstly because she was worried that Yin Qie Zi disliked associating with strangers. Secondly, she was slightly irritated that the group had interrupted her conversation with Yin Qie Zi. Due to her irritation, she had decided to not waste any time on further introductions. In any case, she wasn’t familiar with any of the other nobles. If she hadn’t noticed Gawain, she would’ve secretly motioned at Fenny to make some sort of excuse and send them away.
“Yin Qie Zi?” With a cheerful smile, Gawain said unaffectedly, “I truly must be ignorant. May I ask which family you are from?”
Gawain’s attitude was especially friendly and likeable. It wouldn’t be appropriate if Yin Qie Zi frowned at him too much, so he replied, “I’m not one of the nobility. I’m merely a commoner.”
Gawain was only slightly surprised when he heard Yin Qie Zi’s reply, but the nobles behind him reacted much more severely. They widened their eyes and frowned as they looked over Yin Qie Zi, their scrutinizing gazes blatantly rude.
Mila said inwardly to herself: Yin Qie Zi isn’t a normal person. He’s of a much higher status than nobles. Nobles can be found everywhere, but there is only one Flower even when you add the continents of Xi Zong and Xia Sha together!
Although the other nobles were frowning at Yin Qie Zi, Gawain’s expression contained much more curiosity than anything else. His eyes moved over Yin Qie Zi’s outfit; his expression both curious and questioning.
“Owen gave me this outfit as a present,” Yin Qie Zi replied simply to the other’s silent questions.
A smile broke out on Gawain’s face at Yin Qie Zi’s answer. “Owen gave you clothes as a present? He doesn’t even buy his own clothes, but this outfit really does suit you very well!”
Gawain’s tone of voice was very friendly, but Yin Qie Zi couldn’t help but feel something was off when he heard that Owen’s extravagant present suited him. He quickly said, “I’ll go and see if Owen is finished with his conversation. He’s too slow!”
Mila nodded in response.
Yin Qie Zi turned around and left. Only when he had taken a few steps did he come to a sudden realization: how could he have left Mila alone with a group of men?
But when he turned around, he saw Fenny standing beside Mila. Only then did he suddenly remember that Mila had Fenny, who was extremely skilled at martial arts. What was there for him to worry about… No, even if Fenny weren’t there, why would he be worried? In fact, he was the most dangerous person around Mila!
Yin Qie Zi found his pointless worrying hilarious, but after laughing at himself, a frown appeared on his face… Perhaps he was worried because he wanted to kill Mila personally and feared that she would die at the hands of someone else?
He shook his head and stopped his imagination from running wild. Instead, he focused on looking for Owen.
“Yin Qie Zi? Why are you here alone?”
Yin Qie Zi turned his head and saw Owen running towards him. When Owen came up to him, he immediately said snappily, “I came to see if you’re finished with your conversation. You’re too slow!”
Having been yelled at the minute he came over, Owen scratched his nose sheepishly. “I thought you guys already went home.”
“Fenny had suggested that we go stargazing nearby while waiting for you.”
“Stargazing?” Owen almost wanted to rip off his ears and give them a cleaning. He most certainly heard Yin Qie Zi wrong. Not to mention stargazing, Yin Qie Zi wouldn’t even spare a glance at a naked woman if she walked past him. And now the same Yin Qie Zi was telling him that he had willingly agreed to go stargazing?
“You’ve been really strange lately…”
Yin Qie Zi’s heart skipped a beat when he heard Owen’s words. Could he have been acting too lively recently and somehow stirred Owen’s suspicious?
“I knew you were cold on the outside, but warm on the inside. My hard work this year finally paid off!”
Owen reached up and pretended to wipe tears from his eyes. Though he was just pretending, he suddenly felt a true urge to cry. He had been smiling and dealing with Yin Qie Zi’s cold indifference for a whole year now. After such great effort, the cold atmosphere around Yin Qie Zi was finally starting to warm up. How could he not cry at such a moving development?
Yin Qie Zi rolled his eyes at Owen, all of the tension draining out of him. The only thing that remained was the urge to punch Owen a few times. Owen seemed to have already noticed this as he had silently taken two steps sideways, just enough so that Yin Qie Zi’s fist wouldn’t reach him.
Yin Qie Zi lifted an eyebrow at Owen’s movements, but didn’t step up to punch him. Instead he turned around and left the auction house.
Owen looked at Yin Qie Zi’s back in surprise, but quickly followed after the other. At that moment, Yin Qie Zi turned around abruptly, scaring Owen so much that he jumped to the side, his arms crossed before his chest as if he was trying to ward off an incoming punch.
“Ha!” Yin Qie Zi laughed out loud. It was only a laugh, but it was enough to astonish Owen. “Let’s go. Mila’s waiting for us.”
Owen clicked his tongue and asked, “How come Mila didn’t come with you? If she knew she’d missed the chance to hear you laugh, she’d probably be so frustrated that she’d lose her appetite. It’s a shame since her appetite has been great recently.”
At Owen’s words, Yin Qie Zi retracted his smile and explained simply, “We came across someone named Gawain earlier. He’s chatting with Mila at the moment.”
“Gawain?” Owen hesitated for a bit, but asked, “He didn’t say anything strange to you, right?”
“What could he say?” Yin Qie Zi felt something was strange. He’d been under the impression that Gawain and Owen were rather good friends. Looking at it now, perhaps that wasn’t the case?
“Nothing especially…” Owen said somewhat reluctantly, “It’s just that he’s slightly interested in Mila, but Mila doesn’t like him. So I thought he would… Uh…”
“So you really plan on matching me up with your sister?” Yin Qie Zi asked calmly. “I’m merely a commoner. That’s not a very suitable status for her, right? Your father would certainly be against this.”
“He wouldn’t!” Owen quickly responded, “If my father was opposed to this, then he wouldn’t have tested you that time! He would’ve gotten rid of you right off the bat… Ah!”
At that moment, Owen paused and stared at Yin Qie Zi. He exclaimed, “You already know Mila’s interested in you?”
“Exactly how dense have you made me out to be?” Yin Qie Zi continued irritably, “These few days, I’m the one who has been pushing her wheelchair around. If you aren’t trying to match me up with her, then are you trying to turn me into another of hers?”
Owen scratched his nose and mumbled, “There’s a chance that could happen.”
Yin Qie Zi glared at him and couldn’t resist saying, “I simply don’t understand when Mila started having an interest in me. I remember that when I first met her, you were already trying to set us up, but she didn’t even know me back then.”
“Who said she didn’t know you?” Owen then explained matter-of-factly, “Mila has been listening to me talk about you every day!”
“Is that so? I don’t remember you coming to find me for a chat every day though.” With a semblance of a smile, Yin Qie Zi added, “If you had done that, then I would’ve already poisoned you with some medicine. Would you still be able to talk to Mila and tell her things about me every day then?”
Owen couldn’t resist covering his mouth with a hand when he heard Yin Qie Zi’s reply. He looked as if he was truly worried that Yin Qie Zi would toss poison at him any moment, but the only thing Yin Qie Zi tossed in his direction was a glare.
“In short, she’s more knowledgeable about you than I am.” Owen opened his mouth and explained for his sister. “You know Mila can’t go out of the house, but she really wanted to know what you looked like, so she had sent Fenny to your store secretly to get a glance at your face and make it into an oil painting. That painting is still hanging in her room right now. She has drawn many portraits of you as well. Even though she has never seen you personally, her drawings are surprisingly accurate… Oh, you can’t tell Mila I’ve told you all this. Otherwise, she would get Fenny to kill me.”
“Are you that scared of Fenny?” Yin Qie Zi teased. “You can’t beat her in a fight?”
Owen hesitated for a moment, but replied honestly, “Exactly, I can’t beat her! Fenny isn’t a normal person. Don’t underestimate her. She had been personally taught by Yehv in martial arts. I heard she had started training when she was only two years old.”
Rather than being surprised by the fact that Fenny had started training when she was two, Yin Qie Zi was more shocked at something else. “Yehv raised Fenny?”
“Yes!” Owen replied somewhat enviously. “He found her, raised her, taught her, and then finally took her as his wife. Ah, how envious!”
When the two of them arrived at the door of the auction house, Owen quickly went over and said hello to Gawain. Contrary to Yin Qie Zi’s previous thoughts, the two of them were rather close to each other.
More people were leaving the auction now than before; their surroundings were gradually becoming noisier. Using being tired as an excuse, Mila retired to the carriage first. Due to the crowd, Yin Qie Zi wasn’t the one who lifted her into her seat.
Yin Qie Zi stood beside Owen for a while, but Owen and Gawain were talking about military matters that he wasn’t the slightest bit interested in. The other nobles in the group were once again staring at him with rude gazes. It all irritated him, so he left for the carriage as well, without even the energy or the mood to leave behind a goodbye.
Owen was already used to this, but the others frowned at his sudden departure. Some started cursing at him.
“Aren’t you being a little too condescending here? Who the hell do you think you are?”
“Come out of the carriage, you coward!”
“If you have the guts, why don’t we duel?”
Owen quickly cut in, “Wait, his personality is just like this. Don’t―”
Gawain smiled and interjected, “There’s no harm in having a duel. Owen, I want to have a match with Yin Qie Zi as well!”
Owen looked somewhat helplessly at Gawain. This friend of his was rather easygoing and knew how to conduct himself appropriately, but he had a very ambitious heart. If Gawain truly liked Mila, then Owen would probably help him pursue her. Unfortunately, Owen wasn’t sure that Gawain liked Mila enough to overlook her disability. What Gawain was most attracted to was probably Mila’s status and privileges.
The minute Gawain joined in, the other became louder in their taunts. They were now even more determined to make Yin Qie Zi come out of the carriage for a duel.
The carriage door had been forcefully slammed open. Yin Qie Zi sat inside the carriage and looked down at the group of nobles with his blood-red eyes. The previously noisy nobles instinctively quieted down. Some even lowered their heads to avoid Yin Qie Zi’s gaze, afraid to look into that pair of chilling eyes.
Yin Qie Zi bent his waist and leapt down from the carriage. He then said simply, “Owen, I’m borrowing your sword.”
Owen was shocked. He had wanted to stop them from fighting, but after thinking a bit, Yin Qie Zi probably wouldn’t lose due to his skilled martial arts. Even if he didn’t manage to defeat Gawain, he probably wouldn’t back out of the duel in shame.
Moreover, the square outside the auction house was filled with nobles. The noise Gawain’s friends made earlier had successfully stopped many people in their tracks to watch the commotion. If Yin Qie Zi managed to win the duel, then he would receive a reputation for being good at fighting. In Zhan Yan, that sort of reputation was very important.
Despite this, Mila and Owen hadn’t thought Yin Qie Zi would make a good potential suitor because he was strong. Rather, they hadn’t even known he was skilled at fighting in the beginning. But it would still be a good thing if Yin Qie Zi could win this duel and obtain a good reputation.
Owen offered up his sword and Yin Qie Zi accepted it. Gawain, who had been standing opposite of them, immediately became on guard. He could tell if someone was good with a sword just by looking at the way they held their weapon. Yin Qie Zi appeared very weak and thin, but he held his sword naturally. He was obviously very used to wielding a sword. How could a person like him not be skilled at fighting?
Gawain was slightly bewildered. Although he first pretended to not know Yin Qie Zi, he had actually investigated the other beforehand and knew that Yin Qie Zi worked as a spirit binder. Everyone knew spirit binders weren’t good at fighting. This was because they spent a long time indoors studying spirit medicines and working with special spirits, causing their bodies to become weak and easily susceptible to disease.
Even if Mila knew her beloved Yin Qie Zi’s occupation didn’t suit fighting, she wouldn’t happily let him be beaten by someone, right? Gawain had planned to beat Yin Qie Zi in an easy duel, but now he was becoming apprehensive. At the side, Owen’s eyes brightened in anticipation, looking every inch like a hot-blooded and competitive young man who was waiting to see an exciting duel. Mila even stuck her head out of the carriage, an exhilarated expression on her face.
“Come. Let’s duel.” Yin Qie Zi swiftly pulled his sword out of its sheath. He then added simply, “I still have to hurry home and prepare a few materials for spirit binding.”
As matters stood, Gawain knew he couldn’t back out of the duel. Otherwise he would become a laughingstock. He retracted his smile, took two steps forward, and pulled out his own sword.
The crowd slowly backed away from them, clearing a circle around Yin Qie Zi and Gawain that allowed them enough room to duel.
Zhan Yan was a country that thrived on battle; most of the younger population usually carried around weapons. An impromptu duel on the streets was a rather common sight, so the crowd on the square wasn’t shocked at the sudden duel. Rather, they crowded around the duelers in high spirits and began to speculate at their identities and reason for the duel.
At that moment, Fenny lifted Mila off of the carriage. As she was close to the dueling grounds, she immediately drew the crowd’s attention. Everyone quickly guessed that she was Mila of the Paladin family from the noticeable fact that she was sitting in a wheelchair and her distinctive features. Perhaps she was the reason for the duel.
There wasn’t a judge for the duel. When both parties pulled out their swords, the duel had theoretically already begun. But at the moment, both duelers stood stock still in their spots. Despite this, there wasn’t a single noise of complaint among the crowd. Instead they felt even more excited for the impending battle. From the long experience of watching duels, the crowd knew the ones who were more prudent with their attacks were more skilled fighters. This time, both of the duelers looked to be skilled. A duel between skilled fighters was definitely worth seeing.
Gawain’s entire person was under a state of alert. He stared fixedly at Yin Qie Zi, not willing to miss the other’s every single move.
Yin Qie Zi merely looked at Gawain’s sword. It was a simple sword without any unnecessary decorations. Despite being simple, there wasn’t a single stain or mark on the shiny, silver blade. It was a good sword and its owner obviously cherished it.
Usually, Yin Qie Zi would only make the first move two out ten battles, but this duel belonged to those rare times when he would make the first move. He quickly strode towards Gawain and attacked straightforwardly with his sword.
Gawain brandished his weapon, planning to strike Yin Qie Zi’s sword aside. Unexpectedly, Yin Qie Zi nimbly flexed his wrist and changed the direction of his sword midway through the attack. His sword sped past Gawain’s block and aimed straight at the noble’s throat. Caught unprepared, Gawain was forced to back away.
Although Gawain backed away, Yin Qie Zi quickly stepped up to him again. Yin Qie Zi’s series of attacks were fast and fierce, forcing Gawain backwards step by step. Gawain had no opportunity to counterattack. If he stopped for just a step, Yin Qie Zi’s sword would pierce right through his body.
Gawain continued to move backwards, but the crowd was too slow to react. By the time they remembered to move aside, Gawain had already slammed into an onlooker, raising a round of alarmed shouts from the crowd.
Yin Qie Zi didn’t take advantage of the situation to pursue Gawain and attack. In truth, if he had waved his sword just a bit closer towards Gawain earlier, he would have won the duel. For some unknown reason, when he saw Gawain slam against the crowd, he lowered his sword and did not attack. Instead he turned around and walked to the middle of clearing. He stood there quietly, as if waiting for Gawain to return and continue the duel.
By then, Gawain’s expression had turned extremely ugly. He hadn’t anticipated that Yin Qie Zi was skilled at successive rapid attacks. But this was a duel, how could he use “he hadn’t anticipated the other’s attack” as an excuse for his current losing state? The disparity between their strength was displayed for all to see. Even if Gawain didn’t want to admit it, he knew he wasn’t a worthy opponent for Yin Qie Zi.
On the other hand, Yin Qie Zi was rather satisfied at how his attacks had turned out. He typically didn’t use this type of rapid, fierce attacks to fight opponents.
Generally, his attacks were fast, but they weren’t strong. The main focus of those kind of attacks was to aim quickly and keenly at the weak spots on the body, such as the throat or the heart. But after battling with Cas previously, he found that the other’s style of swift and violent attacks could easily decide the results of a battle. If it was a short battle, then Cas’ style of fighting was very efficient at obtaining wins.
Gawain straightened, his face completely ashen. He had deliberately provoked Yin Qie Zi himself, but got beaten completely. He knew his reputation was probably already ruined by the results of this duel…
“I’ll be your partner this time.”
A new voice cut in and spoke. Two alarmed shouts of “Teacher” and “Uncle” immediately followed.
Everybody froze and looked on in shock as a man walked out of the crowd. He was dressed in a neat and simple military uniform. His back was straight and tall; his whole posture exuded a natural and awe-inspiring sense of authority. It was the commander of the Xialan Spiritmancer Regiment, Chris!
Gawain stared nervously at his uncle. Chris, on the other hand, only gave a cursory glance at his nephew and said nothing. He knew how strong his nephew was; Gawain was one of the best fighters among his generation and was only slightly weaker than Owen. In fact, there was only a difference of two wins between Gawain and Owen. Because of this, Chris didn’t think his nephew performed poorly in the duel. His opponent was simply too strong!
Chris frowned as he looked at Yin Qie Zi. He’d thought the other was only a spirit binder who at most knew some martial arts. He never knew Yin Qie Zi was this strong!
How could a young man like Yin Qie Zi possess such astounding strength? Chris had seen strong young fighters before. The strongest he had ever come across was Prince Edward’s personal guard. But that guard was at least thirty years old, the one in front of him right now… Calling him a teenager would even be passable!
Twenty years old. Chris remembered Owen had once told him Yin Qie Zi’s age. The spirit binder wasn’t a boy, but a young man. The strength he possessed at twenty years old was simply too shocking!
“Since when could you switch in someone new during a duel?” Yin Qie Zi asked indifferently.
Chris knew his cutting in didn’t conform to the rules of a duel, but he wasn’t willing to give up the opportunity to battle a strong opponent. He smiled and said, “This isn’t a duel. I’m merely seeking battle advice.”
The crowd around them gasped when they heard Chris’ response. The grand commander of the Xialan Regiment had actually said he was seeking advice from a young man! How could that not be shocking?
“Teacher Chris!” Mila hurriedly shouted, “Don’t make things difficult for Yin Qie Zi! How could he win against you?”
Chris smiled faintly and replied, “You don’t need to worry. We don’t know for sure that he won’t defeat me.”
The crowd felt Chris was only being modest by using the words “don’t know for sure.” In reality, Chris really did think that way. Yin Qie Zi might just be able to defeat him!
“Teacher!” Mila was so worried that tears were threatening to fall from her eyes, but Chris remained unmoved. He continued walking towards the center of the circular clearing, stopping only when he was about three steps away from Yin Qie Zi.
Yin Qie Zi frowned. He felt he had been too hasty this time. He shouldn’t have accepted the duel as an opportunity to test his new fighting style. It seemed like he had roused Chris’ suspicions. Fortunately, Chris didn’t seem to have recognized him.
On second thought, his past self had no knowledge of martial arts and relied completely on the power to manipulate vines. Because of this, Chris shouldn’t be able to link the skilled fighting style he exhibited in the duel to Gong Hua. Chris might even be misled by the fact that he was skilled at fighting. At that thought, Yin Qie Zi relaxed.
Chris pulled out his sword, seriously intending to battle with Yin Qie Zi. Seeing this, Mila rolled her wheelchair in front of Yin Qie Zi and spread her arms open protectively.
Fenny and Owen immediately ran up to Mila’s side. Owen said frantically, “Teacher, isn’t this inappropriate? Yin Qie Zi is currently dueling with Gawain!”
Upon hearing Owen, Gawain felt an urge to jab his sword down his friend’s throat. He finally managed to escape from a narrow death and it also seemed like he could protect his reputation. The gossip that was going to spread everywhere in the city tomorrow would definitely be about Commander Chris challenging Yin Qie Zi to a battle. There wouldn’t even be a hint of his name in those news. But if the battle between his uncle and Yin Qie Zi never happened, then it meant he would have to continue the duel…
“What’s inappropriate?” Chris responded without a care, “There’s no harm in having their duel another day. Why don’t they just yield this match to me?”
Owen was speechless. Duels were supposed to be serious affairs. They could even be called matters of life and death. However, most of the recent duels in the city weren’t life-threatening battles. Even though they were called duels, it would be more accurate to say they were opportunities to compare battle notes. In any case, neither Gawain nor Yin Qie Zi were important people in the city. Their duel wasn’t such a great affair that they couldn’t afford to change the date.
Yin Qie Zi looked at the girl with a head of golden hair who had her arms spread wide in front of him. He found the situation quite funny. An unarmed and defenseless girl sitting on a wheelchair wanted to protect him? His opponent was also the well-known and imposing commander of a spiritmancer regiment? This was absolutely… What? Ridiculous? A gathering of ill-informed people?
Looking at Mila’s back, however, Yin Qie Zi was unable to say those words out loud.
“Owen, step aside,” Chris ordered simply.
Owen jumped in fright, but he didn’t dare disobey his teacher’s command. He hesitated for a moment, but in the end resigned to his fate and moved aside. In any case, Teacher wouldn’t kill Yin Qie Zi, right? Owen thought.
Even though Owen had stepped away, Mila wasn’t willing to budge an inch. Fenny moved up to push her wheelchair, but Mila stopped her in her tracks with a look, not allowing Fenny to even touch her wheelchair.
The current situation was extremely similar to the one from the past… Why was it that the weakest ones were always the people who refused to back down the most?
Yin Qie Zi reached out and gave Mila’s wheelchair a push, the sudden movement startling her greatly. She looked back and Yin Qie Zi said to her, “Mila, go to the side. It’s too dangerous here for you.”
“But―” Mila still wanted to put a stop to this duel.
“It’s all right.” Yin Qie Zi cut in. He smiled and reassured her, “We’ll only be comparing notes on our battle styles. We’ll suffer minor injuries at most. There’s no need to worry.”
Upon seeing Yin Qie Zi’s smile and listening to his gentle, comforting words, Mila ended up in a daze. Taking advantage of her momentary daze, Yin Qie Zi pushed her wheelchair to the side and then offered the handlebars to Fenny.
“Yin Qie Zi!” Mila shouted. Yin Qie Zi lifted his eyes and looked at her. At that instant, his red eyes were no longer the blood-red of before; instead they appeared similar to two blazing fires. Mila opened her mouth, but faced with the expression in his eyes, she found she couldn’t say any dissuading words to him. She only reminded gently, “Be careful.”
Yin Qie Zi smiled at her and turned around. He clenched his hand around his sword and called out to Chris, “Then please, I look forward to learning from you.”
Chris pulled out his sword. At that moment, the duel officially began. The tension among the crowd had risen so much that they felt as if their hearts were going to leap out of their chests. But then they remembered that skilled fighters only attacked after much waiting and deliberation. Both Commander Chris and Yin Qie Zi were skilled fighters, exactly how long would they have to wait for one of them to make a move this time?
Just when the crowd was mentally preparing themselves for a long wait, Yin Qie Zi made the first move. There was no harm done whether he wins or loses, he might as well treat Chris as an opponent to practice his new fighting style on.
Without the burden of winning or losing, Yin Qie Zi’s attacks became fiercer. He held back on none of his blows and aimed directly for the throat. It was the same move he had used on Gawain, but this time, it wasn’t as effective. Chris didn’t raise his sword frantically like Gawain to protect against the blow. He merely shifted a step and avoided Yin Qie Zi’s attack.
Yin Qie Zi turned his wrist and changed the direction of his sword, the tip now aimed at the other’s heart. At this, Chris finally brandished his sword. Their weapons clashed together, split apart, and changed directions. They waved their swords, looking for an opening to attack, only to clash again as their respective blows were blocked by each other.
Faced with an opponent like Chris, Yin Qie Zi found that the fighting style he had stolen from Cas proved to be ineffective. Although they were using the same fighting style, he simply wasn’t as strong as Cas. His own quick and violent attacks could not shake Chris and make him lose control. Rather, Yin Qie Zi was overexerting himself with this new fighting style. Several times, he switched tactics too late and nearly got stabbed by Chris.
Yin Qie Zi backed away while continuing to block Chris’ attacks. Although it looked like he was retreating in defeat, he was actually slowly adjusting his fighting style to the one that truly belonged to him: attacking quickly while analyzing the structure of his opponent’s weapon and breaking the chains that held it together. Unfortunately, he quickly found out Chris’ sword was made of materials that was difficult to unchain… But difficult didn’t mean impossible!
He continued to analyze the components of Chris’ sword and proceeded to remove the chains that linked the spirits together one by one. Now he only needed to strike the sword once!
Yin Qie Zi kept his eyes on the spot where he had started the chain-breaking process. After parrying a few times, he finally saw an opening to attack. Like a crafty snake, his sword shot straight at the weak spot he had created on Chris’ sword. Just when he was about to strike the blade, he lost his balance. He immediately stumbled and his attack ended up being deflected by Chris. Yin Qie Zi quickly regained his balance and brandished his sword to block Chris’ incoming attack, preventing his chest from being stabbed.
At that moment, Chris stopped attacking. He was slightly worried about his sword. Just now, he felt a disturbance in the spirits of his sword. Plus, it seemed like Yin Qie Zi had been deliberately hunting for a spot to strike on his sword earlier… All of this indicated that Yin Qie Zi had been planning to shatter his sword after breaking the chains that held it together. But how was that possible?
Seeing that Chris was motionless, Yin Qie Zi also lowered his weapon. He glanced down at his foot; there was an obvious pit on the ground. The pit was perfectly circular and exhibited irregular fluctuations now and then. It obviously hadn’t been made by natural means. It was the work of chain-breaking!
Yin Qie Zi was surprised at this discovery. It was rare to come across a spiritmancer who could break chains while enduring his rapid attacks. Chris certainly was strong!
“You actually used chain-breaking on my sword?” Chris was equally shocked. He had been bestowed this sword by His Majesty the King when he had become the commander of the Xialan Regiment. It was made from the highest quality materials that was impossible to use chain-breaking on. If a professional spirit binder were to sit down and break the chains one by one, then it might be possible. But it was definitely impossible in an intense battle like this!
Yin Qie Zi smiled and replied, “I am a spirit binder.”
Chris frowned at his reply. It seemed like he needed to have a spirit binder examine his sword after this duel. Suddenly, Yin Qie Zi brandished his sword. Chris immediately raised his own to block. When their swords struck together, an abnormal crack resounded across the square. Chris’ sword split into two; the top half of the sword was sent flying by the blow and landed with a heavy clang just inside the auction house’s door. Only the tail of the broken blade could be seen, still trembling from the force of the blow.
Chris’ expression immediately darkened. When the crowd saw who was standing near the broken blade, they started in fright. It was Prince Edward!
Edward stared at the broken half of the sword with wide eyes. An icy feeling of fear was spreading inside his heart. He turned around with the plan to yell at the person who had been so careless, but to his surprise, he saw Chris holding onto the other half of the sword. Even though he was a prince, Chris wasn’t someone he could curse at without thinking. Edward could only swallow the curses he had been about to fling.
Although everyone was worried that the prince had almost been struck by the wayward blade, Yin Qie Zi actually hadn’t been aiming at the prince. Even though the blade had struck at a spot close to the prince, it was even closer to where Cas was standing. It had only been an arm’s distance away from striking Cas.
Seems like my wound has mostly healed! Yin Qie Zi was very satisfied at the results. He couldn’t resist a glance at Cas and saw a flash of a smile gracing the assassin’s face, but the smile was gone instantaneously. Yin Qie Zi had no way of knowing the meaning of that smile.
Yet at that moment, both of them came to a realization. With both of their fast fighting styles, if they truly fought against each other, there would no room for mercy. It would be a fight to the death!
In order to avoid rousing suspicions, the two of them retracted their gazes. Upon turning his head away, Yin Qie Zi immediately noticed the unpleasant expression on Edward’s face. There was an equally unpleasant expression on Jin Qi Er’s face, who was standing beside the prince. Chris left quickly after picking up the broken part of his sword resentfully. And there was an awkward expression on Owen’s face… Yin Qie Zi finally started questioning whether he had gone overboard with the last attack.
He then looked down and noticed that Mila had rolled her wheelchair over. A dazzling smile was on her face, her eyes shining with delight. Yin Qie Zi suddenly felt he hadn’t gone overboard at all. The one who wanted to duel with him was Chris. Who could Chris blame but himself for having his sword broken?
“We got delayed a bit. Why don’t you give me the special spirits you’ve bought right now?” Yin Qie Zi looked at Jin Qi Er’s unpleasant expression and decided to not explain the situation. It was a fact that he hadn’t abided by his word to return home early and prepare the materials he needed. There wasn’t much to explain anyways.
While Jin Qi Er’s expression was unpleasant, he didn’t dare act hostile towards Yin Qie Zi. He only ordered his subordinate to hand the special spirits to the spirit binder. He then added uneasily, “Will you really be able to make the medicine in two weeks?”
Yin Qie Zi lowered his head and counted the number of spirits he had been given. After making sure none was missing, he responded, “Yes, you’ll have it in two weeks.”
Jin Qie Zi nodded. He still looked a bit apprehensive, but he was more hopeful than worried.
“I can’t believe he broke Commander Chris’ sword in half,” Edward said sharply from the side. “Owen, are you sure he’s a spirit binder?”
“Don’t ask me. I don’t know how strong he is exactly.” Owen’s voice sounded a bit exasperated. He didn’t forget to glare at Yin Qie Zi a few times.
Mila quickly said, “You can’t blame Yin Qie Zi for this! It was Uncle Chris who insisted on having a fight with him!”
“I know!” Owen mumbled, “You haven’t even married him, yet you’re already protecting your husband. What will happen when you actually marry him?”
Mila didn’t understand what Owen was talking about at first. When she finally reacted, her expression did a flip. She had the urge to punch Owen a few times. Secretly, she snuck a few glances at Yin Qie Zi. When she saw that Yin Qie Zi hadn’t reacted, she thought he hadn’t heard Owen and felt relieved.
“Left Eye is also a skilled fighter. Do we want to see who’s stronger between these two?”
Edward looked at Yin Qie Zi and then at Cas. Despite his taunt, he was very confident in Cas’ skills. He didn’t believe Cas would lose to Yin Qie Zi.
Mila yelled anxiously, “No more fighting! Yin Qie Zi is a spirit binder, not a spiritmancer! Don’t bully him anymore!”
He’s a fellow who’s capable of breaking a spiritmancer regiment commander’s sword! Exactly who is bullying whom here? Owen and Edward were both speechless.
“Let’s go home! If Owen is unwilling to leave, then he can walk home.”
Mila picked up Yin Qie Zi’s hand and forcefully rolled her wheelchair in the carriage’s direction. Seeing this, Yin Qie Zi couldn’t resist a chuckle. He walked behind Mila and helped her push her wheelchair towards the carriage. While lifting her into her seat, he said, “Yes, let’s leave first. Owen can go home by himself.”
“…Hey, wait for me!”
Proofreaders: dinoj, Rose